When an anti-Semitic gunman opened fire recently in a San Diego synagogue, a member of the congregation, Lori Gilbert Kaye, chose in a split second to leap between the shooter and the rabbi. She lost her life…but the rabbi believes that by taking the action she did, she also saved his. This act was, I believe, a teaching moment for the world, a moment of profound accountability to the commitment that I call “It’s all of us.”
When someone makes a personal commitment to “It’s all of us,” that person commits to the idea that we are connected. When you are fully accountable to this commitment within a family, it means that you view the welfare of other people in the family as being just as important as your own welfare, and you act accordingly. When you are accountable to this commitment in the workplace, it means that you make a similar kind of decision about your team or your organization as a whole. You are saying to the other members of your team, “When you succeed, I succeed. When you fail, I fail.” And the very highest level of accountability to this commitment, I believe, comes when you take on, and fulfill, the responsibility to lay down your own life for a person or people who face danger or death if you do not act. This is accountability at the highest level. This is love in action, action taken on behalf of the principle that we are a single, interconnected human family.
The very opposite of this “It’s all of us” commitment comes when we act violently on the belief that we are not a single, interconnected family. The man who pulled the trigger in that synagogue acted on the assumption that we are fundamentally different, that our differences can never coexist or be reconciled, that some groups are simply less human than we are…and may, therefore, be eradicated.
This is an old, old lie. It has countless variations. In the case of the gunman who attacked that San Diego synagogue, the lie that appears to have motivated him dates back to medieval libels against the global Jewish community that have been debunked for centuries. Lies have been created and told about many groups of people and they are all just that, lies.
It is not enough to simply notice such lies, not enough to observe that most people do not believe them. One person being convinced of this kind of lie, and using it to justify carnage, is one too many. We must push back on the lie that some people are more human than others, and expose it to the world as a lie, whenever and wherever it emerges, no matter who tells it. Why? Because if we permit it to stand unchallenged, we allow that lie in our space. And whatever we permit in our space, we condone.
It really is all of us. Whether you are an accountable individual or an accountable leader in your organization, family, or community, we really are all connected. Lori Gilbert Kaye chose not to accept the lie that says we are not. The least we can do to honor her memory is to challenge that lie whenever it surfaces in our world.